John Leech's illustration depicts Marley's ghost visiting Scrooge in Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, a beautifully written treatise on human nature, worth reading any time.
I was awakened in the middle of the night by the Ghost of Politics Past. She showed me a vast panorama of government working to improve our town and combat our ills: poverty, lack of transportation, dangerous streets, low wages, sprawl, destruction of neighborhoods, inadequate schools.
“I remember those days,” I shouted. “The mayor and commission came up with solutions for our most pressing problems—actually put stuff on the agenda and acted on it. And the university pledged to do its part to raise low wages among its support staff. Why, those were the good old days. What happened?”
“You took it all for granted,” the ghost said. “You let it slip away.”
“What? How? Why would we do that?”
“You threw away your Democratic majority,” the ghost intoned sorrowfully. “You said it didn’t matter. That it was OK to have non-partisan elections.”
“Well, isn’t that the progressive thing to do?” I asked.
“Don’t make me laugh,” the ghost said. “It hurts. Without political parties, you had no way to tell the difference between Ebenezer Scrooge and Bob Cratchit.”
“So what? So, Scrooge won and shut down your government. That’s when it stopped trying to be progressive, stopped taking any action…” Then the ghost vanished.
I had barely drifted back into sleep when I was awakened again by the Ghost of Politics Present.
“What do you have to show me, Ghost?” I asked.
“Nothing you haven’t already seen,” it said. “The spirit of Scrooge has taken over your state government, too, and it pinches pennies for your schools and transportation and hospitals and health insurance for the poor, while it cuts the taxes of the rich and the corporations and makes people pay for the cost overruns of the electric company. It calls people fleeing war-torn countries “terrorists,” but it refuses to do anything to keep weapons from your own citizens who are angry or unbalanced enough to terrorize and murder you.”
“Yeah, but that’s state government,” I told Ghosty. “We’re local.”
“Oh, excuse me,” the haint replied cooly. “You want local? Remember when all your state representatives and senators were trying to use government to solve problems, as showed to you by my buddy the Ghost of Politics Past? Well, once the Scroogists took over the state legislature, what did they do? They added enough cows and pigs to your legislative districts to elect Scrooges from all but one. Then, they sliced and diced your local government districts to try to wring a few Scrooges out of those. But their best coup of all was the sleeper Scrooge who laid low for 20 years until she fooled everybody and got elected mayor. That local enough for you?”
I thought I heard giggling as the Ghost faded away, and I sank back into a fitful sleep.
Next up was the Ghost of Politics Future. By this time, I was trembling with dread.
“So,” I said, “tell me how bad it’s going to be.”
“Strictly up to you,” GPF confided. “If the past and present are any guide, it will be business as usual. You are so far gone with Scroogism that it will take a miracle to turn this thing around. I don’t see much sign that you’ve got the will to take your city back. If you want to try, you have got to get organized. You have got to re-learn how to get out the vote. You have got to find good candidates and start working for them now. You’re in the majority here, but you’ve been so slack you wouldn’t know it. The odds are you’ll be scrooged from here on out.”
“No, no,” I cried. And then I woke up. Was it all a dream, or…?